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Uttarakhand CM ignored mining warning: Jairam
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 14
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh today blamed the BJP-led Uttarakhand government for the death of Swami Nigmanand, who was agitating to save the Ganga.

Accusing the state government of “repeatedly ignoring Centre’s warnings” on illegal sand mining in the Ganga basin, the Environment Minister said Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank failed to fulfil his responsibilities as the Chief Minister.

Jairam said he had warned the CM about the mining mafia, against which the seer was fighting, but no action was taken. “In view of the fact that the state government has demonstrated a continued reluctance to take action against illegal mining, I think, we will have no option but to invoke Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act and take action on our own,” he said.

Minor mining is a state subject and invoking Section 5 would give the Centre power to issue directions to Uttarakhand to take action. Powers under the section include closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process; or stoppage or regulation of the supply of electricity or water or any other service.

Swami Nigmanand of Haridwar-based Matra Sadan died on Monday in Dehradun after a 114-day hunger strike. He was in the same hospital where Ramdev was admitted.

According to Jairam, MoEF officials visited Uttarakhand in December 2009 and submitted a detailed report on illegal mining in January 2010.

“I wrote to the Chief Minister... even talked to him four-five times. I told him that illegal mining enjoys political patronage. I requested him to take action under the law as he is empowered to. It is sad that even after 18 months no action has been taken,” said the Environment Minister.

Jairam termed the death of Nigmanand as “unfortunate” and a “major setback to environmental activism.” “But above all, it’s a big slap on the face of the state government,” he added.

The seer’s death, it seems, has provided ammunition to the Congress to take on the BJP. Taunting its arch-rival, the party said the BJP should have supported Nigmanand instead of the “high-flying” Baba Ramdev.

Senior party leader Digvijay Singh said Nigmanand had been fasting for more than 100 days but there was no reaction from the Nishank-led BJP government. “Here is a high-flying Ramdev, who is on a money making spree, raising issues which he does not understand, raising issues which he does not comprehend…He goes on a hunger strike... and you have the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Minister visiting him,” he said.

Digvijay Singh was referring to senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and Nishank’s visit to Ramdev when he was on his fast at his ashram in Haridwar.

The entire episode has caught the BJP on the wrong foot. A cornered party spokesman Prakash Javdekar tried to wriggle out of the uncomfortable situation by saying that “the government had ordered Ganga conservation. But the court ruled against it, which is why Nigmanand died.”





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